- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has settled with Google over an investigation that alleged that YouTube broke rules in terms of how it collected data and marketed to children, according to a report in Bloomberg.
- Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but a report in The Washington Post suggests Google will pay a multimillion dollar fine. Five members of an FTC panel voted to go ahead with the settlement, reads the report.
- The settlement ends an investigation into whether YouTube broke the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a law that prevents companies from collecting data from kids under 13 without parental consent.
While the FTC probe into YouTube was the latest sign that regulators are looking more closely at digital media practices, the size of the fine is likely little more than a slap on the wrist for YouTube.
YouTube did not reveal how it will change its behavior, if at all, in the aftermath of the FTC probe, but the report suggests the platform might be considering banning advertising from kids' content altogether. Such a move could impact YouTube's revenue, which is primarily derived from advertising, although any impact could be mitigated by the fact that kids watch a variety of content not necessarily considered "children's content" on YouTube.
Internet technology and adoption among children is growing. Kids and teens spend almost 20 hours a month online, according to FamilyEducation.com.
As technology and usage continually evolves, regulators have taken a closer look at digital media consumption with an eye toward protecting children online. Last week, the FTC opened a commenting period on COPPA, in which people are encouraged to share their thoughts on updates to the law to support changing and evolving technology. The rules were last updated in 2013 to support consumer behavior around mobile devices and social media. The latest inquiry seeks comments on the rules affects accessibility to children, requirements for sites targeting kids and how to address interactive TV and games.
"In light of rapid technological changes that impact the online children's marketplace, we must ensure COPPA remains effective," said FTC Chairman Joe Simons in a press release. "We're committed to strong COPPA enforcement, as well as industry outreach and a COPPA business hotline to foster a high level of COPPA compliance. But we also need to regularly revisit and, if warranted, update the Rule."
The YouTube settlement hints that the FTC is willing to slap big players with fines, but there's not yet a clear vision of how to protect the privacy of kids using video-sharing sites. Facebook was most recently fined for compromising user data and allowing Russian trolls to spread misinformation before the 2016 election. The company's stock rose after the settlement.